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April 26, 2005

Cowley vice president to retire after 37 years at college


When Conrad Jimison went to work at Arkansas City Community Junior College, now known as Cowley College, he figured he’d spend about three years at the school.

Thirty-seven years later, it’s obvious Jimison became comfortable.

Jimison, who began his career as agri-business coordinator and worked his way into administration, is retiring at the end of June. A reception is scheduled in his honor at 3 p.m. Thursday in the Earle N. Wright Community Room inside the Brown Center.

“I didn’t anticipate staying, and I told them that when I interviewed,” said Jimison, a native of Stafford. “I still thought I’d end up in business some place.”

That never happened. With thoughts of using the college as a stepping stone, Jimison actually created his own diverse career path within the college that included eight different areas of responsibility. It included everything from teaching to supervising the teachers. He is retiring as vice president of administration, a position he’s held since 2002.

Jimison graduated from Stafford High School in 1958 and headed off to Starkville, Miss., and Mississippi State University to major in seed technology in the school’s agronomy program. After a year, he transferred to Emporia State University and changed his major to business. Jimison earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from ESU in 1962.

He married the woman he’d known all his life, Janet Minnis, on June 10, 1962, in Stafford.

After earning his degree, Jimison went to Fort Hays State University for a year and completed his secondary teaching certification requirements. In spring 1963, with Janet teaching physical education in Great Bend, Jimison landed his first teaching job. He taught American history, economics, accounting, American government and psychology at tiny Holyrood High School, about 25 miles from Great Bend. He earned around $4,000 that first year.

“When I went into education, I thought I’d stay three to five years, then get out,” Jimison said.

After three years at Holyrood, he became the distributive education coordinator at Great Bend High School. After a couple of years at Great Bend, Jimison got a call from the Kansas Department of Education, telling him about the job opening at Cowley.

“It was going to be a partnership between business and ag teachers,” Jimison said.

During the summer of 1968, with his wife and two young children in tow, Jimison left Great Bend, a new house, and the convenience of being just 35 miles from Stafford for a place he didn’t know much about: Arkansas City.

On Aug. 1, 1968, Jimison began his career at Cowley. Equipped with a business background, he teamed with Rich Tredway, who brought a farm background, to build the college’s agri-business program.

“Rich and I were on the road a lot,” Jimison said. “Students were in class half the time and on the job half the time.”

Jimison and Tredway placed students at grain elevators, feed lots and farm supply stores all across Kansas and a few in neighboring states. To this day, Jimison occasionally runs into students he worked with more than 35 years ago.

“We were not a back-to-the-farm program,” he said.

Jimison and Tredway spent nearly 15 years together building the college’s agri-business program. That included constantly updating curriculum and developing new ways to do things.

“Rich and I got along very well,” Jimison said. “If you want to look at a successful team partnership, it was Rich and me. We complimented each other.”

The relationships they built with industry were long lasting and far-reaching.

“We were known throughout the state,” Jimison said. “We had a good run. And we had good students. Some were older than Rich and I were.”

In August 1969, Jimison earned a master’s degree from ESU.

In 1977, a third instructor, Larry Schwintz, was added to expand the program into production agriculture. However, the agriculture industry as a whole was hit hard during that period, and it wasn’t long before Jimison changed jobs at the college.

“I did a little grant work and evening and continuing education work,” Jimison said.

That preceded a move to become the college’s registrar and director of continuing education, a position Jimison held until 1988, Dr. Pat McAtee’s second year as president. Continuing education occupied most of Jimison’s time for the next eight years. He served as director of continuing education from 1988-89, then was named associate dean of continuing education, a title he held from 1989 to 1996.

For the 1996-97 academic year, Jimison was the college’s associate dean of instruction. He became dean of instruction in fall 1997, then vice president of instruction during the 2000-2001 academic year.

What sustained Jimison for nearly four decades at Cowley were the relationships he’s built with colleagues.

“You always have to come back to the people,” Jimison said when asked what has been most rewarding working at Cowley. “It was really satisfying to work in the ag program. Industry was calling us and asking for students to go to work. In continuing education, it was the same thing. The contacts you have with people and seeing students be successful, that was very satisfying.”

Jimison credited McAtee as the person having the most impact on his career.

“With Pat, you’re pretty self-directed,” Jimison said. “He really does care for his staff.”

Jimison, who arrived at Cowley the same year as the late Dr. Gwen Nelson, the college’s second president, said Nelson built a firm foundation for the college to grow.

“He set the fundamental organization of the institution,” Jimison said. “He gave it direction and set the basic structure we have today. When Pat came in, he stepped everything up to another level.”

Jimison, who turns 65 on June 9, said he planned to work longer.

“At Christmas, I was sitting at home, and it seemed like the right thing to do,” he said. “My health is good. Janet’s health is good.”

In retirement, Jimison said he and his wife probably would travel some, and that includes trips to Topeka to see daughter Staci Wedemeyer and to Fort Worth, Texas, to visit son Scott and three grandsons.

Jimison said he’d miss working at the college.

“I’ll miss the contact with the people, with students and staff,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of different things. It’s almost been a career change within the organization.”